View The Austin Gastronomist blog the traditional way– in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent post.
There are so few chances to enjoy cold weather indulgences in Austin that I tend to bend the definition of “cold” a little when seasons start to change. In the fall, drinking Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout is like wearing my favorite winter boots. Both are toasty and deep brown, and although I prefer to enjoy them in cooler climes, I try to make them part of a night out as soon as the temperature dips below 80 degrees.
From Independence Brewing Company in southeast Austin, Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout has an exceptionally creamy texture, deep coffee and chocolate flavors, and just a hint of sweetness. The head of the pour looks like lace as it dissolves along the side of the glass, and the beer’s high viscosity makes it the perfect cold weather sipper.
When I was brainstorming my Austin Beer Week recipes for this year, I thought immediately of my favorite stout. I was skeptical that I’d be able to cook with it at home, though, since so few local porters and stouts are available in bottles year round. Luckily, this gem of a beer is available by the bottle and in six-packs at Hyde Park Market.
I happened to do my beer week taste testing around the same time as the Austin Bakes for Bastrop bake sale, when I was baking up a storm. This ice cream developed as a play on the idea of melding beer with milk and cookies– specifically oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
The base of the ice cream is an ultra-creamy custard; I added the stout to a traditional egg and dairy custard, increasing the cream in the dairy part of the recipe to emphasize the creamy texture of the beer. Brown sugar and dark chocolate sweeten the recipe and serve to highlight the bittersweet notes in the beer’s flavor profile, while a pinch of cinnamon and ginger bring the ice cream full-circle into dessert territory. I am really happy with the way this ice cream turned out, and I predict it will join my winter boots in this year’s rotation of cold weather enjoyment.
Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout Ice Cream (yields 1.5 quarts of ice cream)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout (if this is not available where you live, substitute an oatmeal stout or coffee porter)
1/2 cup whole milk
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3.5 oz. dark chocolate (I used 70% dark, but any type of dark or bittersweet chocolate will be fine)
In a large saucepan, heat cream, stout and milk over medium low heat. While cream is heating, whisk together egg yolks and brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a medium bowl.
Once cream is very warm and begins to steam, temper the egg yolk mixture by ladling warm cream into the yolks a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly. Once the yolk mixture is very warm, pour it into the saucepan and increase the heat to medium. Heat the custard mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit, at which time it will have thickened slightly and will coat the back of a spoon. Pour the custard through a strainer into a storage container, and then set it in an ice bath. Once the custard has cooled completely, cover it and store it in the refrigerator for at least three hours, preferably overnight.
To churn the ice cream, pour the chilled custard into an ice cream machine and proceed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I use a Cuisinart Classic ice cream maker with a removable freezer bowl, and this ice cream was churned in about 45 minutes.
While the ice cream is churning, chop the chocolate into shards. At the end of churning, add chocolate pieces into ice cream maker and give it a few moments to distribute the chocolate into the finished ice cream. Transfer ice cream to an airtight storage container and freeze for several hours before serving.
Austin Beer Week is here! That means it’s time to pull out your pint glass, fire up the hospitality fridge, and enjoy the dozens of beers brewed right here in Austin. The Texas Craft Brewers Guild and other Beer Week organizers have outdone themselves this year; there are countless events, specials, tastings and parties all week long in celebration of Austin’s brewing community. (See the full calendar of activities here.)
I’m celebrating Austin Beer Week in my home kitchen, with a series of special beer recipes I’ve developed for the occasion. Each recipe features a different locally brewed craft beer, and I tried to select varieties that are widely available at Austin-area gas stations and liquor stores.
The first recipe in my Austin Beer Week series is a mushroom barley stew made with Independence Brewery’s Austin Amber Ale. Austin Amber Ale pours burnt orange with a thick white head, and it has a medium body. It is lightly carbonated with flavors of roasted barley, grass, and a hint of citrus, and it finishes very clean.
My stew recipe plays up the nutty qualities of the beer with barley, while celery and lemon juice complement the ale’s citrus notes. Three kinds of local mushrooms add umami and a rich texture to the stew, without overpowering the beer’s subtle flavors like beef would have. I definitely would have gone a different, darker, direction with this stew if I had been using a heavier beer,; however, the finished recipe is satisfying and clean without getting too heavy– just like Austin Amber Ale.
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup white button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup shitake mushrooms, chopped
1 large portabella mushroom, chopped
12 oz. bottle Austin Amber Ale (if this is not available where you live, substitute a medium bodied ale or lager)
3 cups beef stock
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
fresh parsley for garnish
I got these lovely heart-shaped buñuelos recently from my friends Nathan and Amy. I’m still not quite sure why they gave them to me, since Rami and I were attending a dinner party at their house at the time. Maybe it was a reverse-hostess gift? Maybe a just-because-you’re-a-sucker-for-cinnamon gift? In any case, I’m now totally enamored of these crunchy, cinnamon and sugar covered cookies.
If I have my story straight, Nathan and Amy discovered the cookies when they were shooting the wedding of the company’s owners here in Austin a few weeks ago. The couple handed out boxes of the cookies as favors, and Nathan and Amy ended up with several. (One of the perks of being a wedding photographer, I guess!) 444 Buñeolos Gourmet started in Mexico, and it has a branch in Austin. The cookies are currently made in Mexico and shipped to Texas, but the family that owns the business is planning to start making them here in Austin next year.
Tiffany Harelik began blogging the Trailer Food Diaries in 2009 as a way to get her mind off of her desk job. In just under two years, Harelik has turned that office distraction into a full-time multimedia and consulting career based in Austin’s booming mobile food business. “It all started with a job I hated,” Harelik quips. “If you asked me five years ago whether I’d be working in the food industry, I would have said, ‘Hell no.’”
Although Harelik didn’t intend to work in the restaurant business, it’s easy to see how her quick smile, enthusiasm, and genuine affection for Austin’s restauranteurs has taken her far in a short time. Today she continues her blog with scouting help from interns, she recently published a trailer food cookbook, and she writes regular columns for Austin Man Magazine and Austin Culture Map.
Perhaps her most visible project in Austin is the Gypsy Picnic food festival, which last year drew over 15,000 to feast on trailer food at Auditorium Shores. The Gypsy Picnic was received favorably in concept, and generated more media buzz than many of Austin’s long-running food events. In practice, though, the festival’s popularity presented some stumbling blocks in the form of long lines and slow food service. With the second festival coming this Saturday, October 22nd, Harelik is getting another chance to impress local critics and the public alike.
“We’re making some changes this time around,” Harelik said. “The spirit will be the same, but it will be a little more like ACL’s food court from an operational standpoint. We’re working with trailers to select menu items that will scale well to accommodate large crowds.”
In addition to the tweaks Harelik described, this weekend’s festival will boast over 40 trailers and a larger footprint in which to spread out. As an additional time saver, each trailer will limit its menu to three choices. If there are long lines after all of that, the festival promises plenty of live music and people watching to help pass the time.
The week leading up to the Gypsy Picnic also marks the debut of Harelik’s Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook, which she published with Austin-based Greenleaf Book Group this fall. The 150-page cookbook offers recipes and photos from Austin Food Trailers, with personal stories from many of the chefs.
Harelik is also active behind the scenes of Austin’s trailer food movement. For the past year, she has worked as the Director of Marketing and Events for Torchy’s Tacos, the Austin-based taco chain that started as a food trailer in 2006. And as a freelance consultant, she has counseled business owners who want to break into the mobile food scene in Portland, Washington D.C., Virginia and Austin.
“If I could give anyone who’s thinking about getting into this business two pieces of advice, they would be to stay open when you say you’ll be open, and be a part of the community,” advises Harelik. “Oh yeah, and limit your menu. There’s such a wide variety of food here in Austin, that if you don’t have a niche product, no one cares.”
If this advice seems harsh, it’s because Harelik has seen firsthand how difficult it can be for new trailers to survive in the volatile mobile food industry. There are many challenges outside the kitchen, she says, and it can be overwhelming to navigate. Luckily, from these challenges come community. ”Not every chef is going to be able to do social media, or figure out the city’s codes. We have to stick together,” she insists. “The people here are real people, who are happy o go to work in the morning because they love what they do. It’s a great community.”
This post, like many that I will share in the next several months, belongs in the “better late than never” category. If you’re a blogger, you know too well that a day-long hiatus from writing can turn into a week-long hiatus. And then a month-long hiatus.
Pretty soon it’s been six weeks and your poor blog is lying barren in a dark corner of life’s garden. I’ve been a naughty blogger, and I’m playing catch up starting today with the first of many, many overdue posts. It’s a little embarrassing, but I have a feeling that nearly every experienced blogger knows my pain.
This lovely zucchini dessert recipe is the perfect thing to bring my blog out of hibernation. I tested the recipe over a month ago for frugal potluck hosted by my friends Lisa is Cooking and Franish Nonspeaker, in celebration of Slow Food’s $5 Challenge. Back in September, Slow Food put out the call for sustainably-produced value meals that wouldn’t break the bank, and Lisa and Shelley hosted a pot luck so a few of us in Austin could participate. A terrific sampler of meals prepared in Austin is here, in Lisa’s blog post for Slow Food Austin. Unfortunately, my status as a Bad Blogger means I’m past the deadline to officially participate in the challenge, but I figure it’s never too late to share a good zucchini recipe.
I adapted this inexpensive dessert from Taste of Home’s Zucchini Dessert Squares. That recipe, prepared as directed, costs just $1.12 per serving using organic butter and sugar and local zucchini purchased from Greenling. For the Slow Food challenge, I adapted Taste of Home’s recipe so that it is a lighter on the wallet and the waistline. Instead of a three-layer dessert bar, I prepared the dish as a crumble, with one layer of zucchini filling topped by a buttery sweet layer of cookie crumbles. If the idea of zucchini dessert filling makes you blanch, relax. The zucchini is peeled so there’s no trace of bitterness, and the finished dessert tastes just like Mom’s apple pie. With my adaptions, the cost per serving of this recipe is just $.86, well within the bounds of Slow Food’s challenge.
Zucchini Crumble (serves 16)
2 cups organic, all-purpose flour
1 cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold organic butter, cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
8-10 cups cubed peeled, seeded zucchini (3-4 pounds)
juice of 2 lemons, about 2/3 cup
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 and butter a 9×13 baking dish. In a large bowl, combine flour, one cup sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. (A food processor is useful but not essential here.)
For filling, combine cubed zucchini and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, until zucchini is crisp tender. Stir in sugar and cinnamon, cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Pour filling into prepared baking dish and top with crumble mixture. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown.
(Disclosure: I work at Greenling. I purchased the ingredients for this recipe at full price, however, and I am not being compensated for this post.)
I think my friend Megan spoke for everyone in Austin today when she tweeted: “Goodbye August and your stupid heat! Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!” Indeed, it’s the last day of the month, and I can’t imagine a single thing about the past month’s weather that I’m going to miss.
Last night Rami and I celebrated the end of August with this baked chicken and vegetable casserole. Its ingredients and savory sweet flavors foreshadow the goodness of fall. Chicken leg quarters sit on a bed of onions, butternut squash and pears, and the dish is seasoned with a glaze of maple, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Don’t be fooled by the chili powder and cumin– the spices add a subtle heat to the dish, but not a Tex-Mex flavor.
Butternut squash, Asian pears and onions straddle the summer and fall growing seasons perfectly, and we used them in this dish since they were handy. However, any combination of those vegetables and/or apples, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, shallots, red potatoes or Bartlett pears would taste good too. The only trick is to chop everything into evenly-sized pieces, and to peel anything that’s got a hard exterior, like the squash.
Garlic Roasted Chicken with Butternut Squash (Serves 2, with an extra serving of veggies leftover)
2 chicken leg quarters
2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
3 Asian pears, Bartlett pears or apples
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the chicken leg quarters under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim away any extra fat or skin. Set the chicken on a clean plate in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the casserole.
Next, spray a two-quart casserole dish with olive oil or cooking spray. Dice the squash and pears into 1/4 inch pieces and slice the onion, arranging the cut veggies in the prepared casserole dish as you go. Place chicken leg quarters on top of the vegetables.
In the blender or food processor, combine garlic cloves and remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. Pour the mixture over the chicken leg quarters, and bake the dish in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until chicken juices run clear and vegetables are fork-tender. Allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.
Today is not going very well. I’m a little emotionally hungover from Sunday’s (very successful) pie fundraiser, and I forgot to eat breakfast for the umpteenth day in a row this morning. I also just saw that Jada and Will Pinkett Smith are getting separated. I keep asking myself, if the couple can’t make it whose kid makes me want to Whip My Hair, who can??
The light at the end of my tunnel is the big, juicy watermelon waiting for me in my refrigerator today. I have plans to make salad, margaritas and sorbet with that melon tonight and, if I am feeling extra ambitious, I will pickle the rind.
Besides last week’s watermelon and some nice pears this week, we’re still getting the dregs of summer produce in Central Texas. (Thanks, Mr. Drought.) We’re on week 6 of summer peas, and the eggplant continue to come, too. Here’s what I’m cooking with this week:
- Asian Pears – Engel Farm
- Assorted Eggplant- Fruitful Hill Farm & Animal Farm
- Shallots OR Garlic- Fruitful Hill Farm
- Red Potatoes – Gundermann
- Assorted Summer Squash – Gundermann Acres
- 1015 Onions – Bar W & Fruitful Hill Farm
- Salad Mix – My Father’s Farm
- Butternut OR Acorn Squash – Gundermann & Bar W
- Summer Peas – Just Peachy Farm
Meal One: That bag of salad mix is begging to be eaten as soon as we get our Local Box. I’m going to make caramelized onion salad dressing with those sweet 1015 onions and serve up a big green salad with Mom’s Zucchini Bread on the side.
Meal Two: Szechwan Eggplant Stir-Fry served over rice.(Substitute shallots or half of a finely chopped 1015 onion for the green onions in the stir fry recipe.)
Meal Three: Creamy Summer Squash Potato Soup with sliced pears on the side
Meal Four: Achiote Rubbed Butternut Squash Tacos
Meal Five: Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, steamed summer peas (no recipe needed: put the peas in a steamer basket and steam over boiling water, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and a little butter, if desired.)
I found this little cookbook in a box of heirlooms my Grandma Hutchison passed down to my sister Beth and me, after she and Grandpa moved into a retirement community. It was published in the 1950s by the Polk County T.T.T., a ladies’ charitable organization to which Grandma presumably belonged.
The cookbook has the grease stains, tattered edges and handwritten notes that distinguish good old cookbooks from the rest, and reading it feels a little bit like having coffee with Grandma and her girlfriends in the 1950s. I can imagine them now, a group of dedicated home cooks and renegade fundraisers, sitting around a mimeograph machine (probably in a Methodist church basement), printing and assembling these cookbooks. Imagining my grandma in this way is especially poignant to me, as it identifies her and her friends as early food bloggers of a sort. Just as I have built a community of friends through food, so did Grandma Hutchison and the ladies of T.T.T.
When Beth and I were looking through Grandma’s cookbooks, one of the first recipes that jumped out as us was “Ambassador Black Bottom Pie.” Our curiousity was piqued in part by the recipe’s unusual name, in part by its intriguing combination of flavors: chocolate, ginger, vanilla creme, egg whites. We were also in the mood for pie. (Who isn’t these days?)
From the internet, I’ve learned that black bottom pies always feature a chilled chocolate custard along with some kind of whipped topping, either meringue or cream based. They probably originated in the South, and the name “black-bottomed” comes from the color of the chocolate layer. This pie is old school in that it gets its fluff from raw, whipped egg whites. Skip this in favor of another type of pie if you don’t want to eat raw eggs or if you’re immuno-suppressed.
I’ve made Ambassador Black Bottom Pie twice as the recipe was originally written. Parts of it worked wonderfully as-is (the luscious chocolate custard), and parts of it needed to be updated to reflect the proportions of modern ingredients (the crust and meringue). Now that I’ve finished round six of pie making, I feel comfortable sharing my adaptation of this classic dessert.
Ambassador Black Bottom Pie (serves 8 )
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (11 Honeymaid Graham Crackers, crushed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon gelatin dissolved in 4 tablespoons cold water (1 1/2 packets of Knox Gelatin)
1 1/2 squares baking chocolate, melted
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2 square baking chocolate
First, prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar until well combined, then press that mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in preheated oven for seven minutes, then set aside to cool completely.
For filling: scald milk in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is steaming and begins to froth around the edges (not boiling!). Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch to the milk and stir for a few moments until the sugar is dissolved. Turn heat down to medium-low. Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then temper them by beating in a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture before adding the warmed yolks to the double boiler. Add vanilla. Cook the custard, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (around 178-183 degrees Farenheit). Remove the pan of custard from the double boiler.
Measure out a cup of the hot custard into a small bowl and add the the melted baking chocolate. Stir to combine combine, then spread the chocolate custard into the prepared pie crust. Store the chocolate filled pie in the refrigerator to set.
Next, add the prepared gelatin to the remaining hot custard. Set aside to cool. Use an electric mixer to beat two egg whites. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, along with the cream of tartar a few tablespoons at a time, and continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir half the egg white mixture into the cooled vanilla custard to loosen it, then fold in the remaining egg whites. (You can see in the top picture of the pie that I did a poor job of mixing together the custard and the egg whites. Whoops! It tasted fine.) Gently scrape the meringue onto the cooled chocolate custard.
Store the pie in the refrigerator to set, at least four hours. (Overnight is better.) Before serving, garnish the pie with whipped cream and a little grated baking chocolate. I experimented with adding candied ginger to the top, too. It looked really pretty on the slices I served right away, but it had just melted into the whipped cream by the next day.
The crazy part of August has officially begun. You know, when you fit a year’s worth of doctor’s appointments, a couple hundred bucks of back-to-school shopping, and a full weekend of summer fun into the last 120 hours before school starts. If you’ve somehow managed to miss the hectic rush into autumn, please tell me how you do it. Otherwise, I’m happy to commiserate with you over a comforting bowl of ham and field pea stew.
This recipe is one of my go-to dishes during busy times since the slow cooker does all the hard work. Field peas, potatoes, onions and garlic simmer all day in a broth flavored with ham hocks. The end result is a mild stew with tender hunks of meat, creamy peas and buttery potatoes in a smoky pot likker. Besides tasting great, the recipe is also inexpensive (more money for back to school shopping!) and I can prepare the raw ingredients up to four days before I stick them in the Crock-pot (just cut everything up and stick it in a resealable plastic bag until you’re ready to go.)
I love the way ham hocks taste after all day in the slow cooker. They impart a smokey sweet flavor into all the other ingredients, and there’s no need to season the finished stew. If you don’t have ham hocks on hand, or if you’re vegan, substitute 3 vegan bullion cubes, 2 ribs of chopped celery, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke for the ham hocks and proceed with the recipe as written. Taste the stew before serving and add extra salt, pepper or liquid smoke as needed.
Slow Cooker Field Pea Stew (serves 4)
1 lb. smoked ham hocks (2-3 total pieces)
4 red potatoes, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups field peas
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Ingredients may be prepared up to four days ahead of time and stored together in an airtight container or gallon-sized resealable bag. When ready to cook stew, combine all ingredients with three cups of water in a three quart slow cooker. Allow stew to cook for 6-8 hours on low, undisturbed. Remove the ham bones before serving. I like to serve this dish with corn muffins.
- Assorted Eggplant – Fruitfull Hill Farm
- Watermelon (x-large) – Gundermann Acres
- Okra – Engel Farm
- Basil- Gundermann Acres
- Pickling Cucumbers- Gundermann Acres
- Red Aztec Spinach – My Father’s Farm
- Red Potatoes – Gundermann Acres
- Summer Peas – Just Peachy Farm
- Assorted Peppers – Comanche Oaks